After overcoming slow starts, the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks both entered the All-Star break in the thick of the race for a playoff spot.
The Wizards rebounded to compete for one of the four play-in spots, while the Knicks recovered enough to move into the top six in the Eastern Conference.
When the Knicks play the Wizards on Friday night, they will continue their push for the playoffs.
New York had won 33 of its first 60 games before the break. The Knicks are 23-14 since December 3 and in sixth place, half a game ahead of the Miami Heat.
Before the break, New York had won three straight games, scoring at least 120 points in each one, against the Utah Jazz, Brooklyn Nets, and Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks reached 120 points in three consecutive games for the second time this season.
Brunson, who has scored 31.9 points per game over his last seven games, was the driving force behind New York’s strong finish before the break.
In New York’s final game before the break, a 122-101 victory over Atlanta on Feb. 15, Brunson scored 28 points.
After receiving Josh Hart in a trade from Portland at the deadline, New York will play its fourth game. In his first three games with the Knicks, Hart has made 9 of 14 3-point attempts, netting 51 points.
Mitchell Robinson, the Knicks’ starting center, could return after missing 14 games with a right thumb injury that required surgery. Robinson has resumed full-contact practice after suffering an injury in the first quarter of a loss to Washington on January 18.
Although Washington’s early struggles were longer than those of the Knicks, the Wizards are now attempting to get out of a play-in race. From November to December, the Wizards went on a 10-game skid. 18 to drop to 11-20, but have since gone 17-10.
Since Washington’s victory in New York on January 18, it has gone 10-4, moving up from 12th to ninth. Wes Unseld Jr., the coach, is curious to see if his team can move into the top six with 14 home games remaining.
A remarkable comeback by the Wizards sent them into the break. On February 16, they beat the host Minnesota Timberwolves 114-106 after rallying from a 20-point deficit to score 38 points in the fourth quarter.
For the third time in four games, Bradley Beal scored at least 30 points. In the final four or more minutes, he scored 13 of his season-high 35 points. After missing two games with a sore left foot, Beal has missed 22 games this season and is averaging 27.2 points in his last five games.